Thursday, 2 August 2012

Relativity and the Doors of Perception

Albert Einstein, describing relativity, once said "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute."

This relativistic nature of time perfectly sums up how I was feeling today, when I received a voice mail. The situation was entirely of my own making - I was in my car, driving back from another interview, when I saw the missed call and voicemail icon ping in. Since my roof was down (I have a little Mazda MX5 / Miata), I couldn't answer the call, or call back immediately, but when I stoped at some traffic lights, I decided to quickly listen to the message, at this point not knowing who it was from.

The message turned out to be from one of the companies that I have interviewed with, asking me to give them a call back. Nothing more, nothing less - no indication as to whether it was good news or a rejection.

How I wished that I had not listened to that message at that time! Instead of a nice drive home in the sunshine, relaxing after what had been a really positive interview, I spent the entire journey - which felt like every minute was an hour - analysing the voicemail in my head. Had that intonation been negative? Why had the assistant rung rather than the hiring manager?

And to really rub salt into the wound, I made it home at 5 minutes to 5, immediately put a call in, only to get her voicemail, and no return call ... So I now have to wait until tomorrow to find out what the call is going to say.

My wrong-headed decision to quickly listen to the message raises an important point about decision making, something that I have tought again and again to my teams, but in true slapstick fashion, failed to take heed of myself.

Circles of Influence/ Concern
When dealing with difficult situations, there are two circles - the circle of influence, and the circle of concern.

Within the Circle of Influence lies everything that you are able to influence, and have an effect upon.
Within the Circle of Concern lie all of the things which you cannot affect, but often waste energy and effort worrying about.

If you can successfully increase your level of influence, by being positive and proactive, the corollary is that you decrease the size of the Circle of Concern. If however, you are passive and reactive, your influence will decrease, and your concerns will grow.

This was the trap that I fell into today - I should never have listened to the message. I was not in a position to do anything about the message, and listening or not listening to it would not have changed the nature of the message. All I did was create a concern born of uncertainty and unknowing, which achieved nothing but to relativistically turn two hours of my life into a drawn out journey of concern, draining me of positivity, calmness and energy.

"There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception"
Aldous Huxley

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